The University of Maine women’s soccer team battled for 110 minutes in its third game of the season for a 1-1 tie against visiting Iona College on Sunday.
The Black Bears struck first, when in the 30th minute senior forward Carolyne Nellis scored her fourth goal of the season unassisted, but the Gaels answered back in the second half when freshman forward Melissa Frederick headed in a corner kick from teammate Sofia Sanchez in the 65th minute. The two teams continued into extra-time, but neither was able to find a game-deciding goal.
Nellis’ goal came after an indirect cross was put inside the box. The sure-footed senior collected the loose ball and powered through a crowd of players, following a shot straight to the back of the net. In just three games, Nellis has already tied her goal total from last year.
Iona’s second half corner-kick header marks the fifth straight goal in two games scored on the Black Bears directed from set pieces — two have been penalty kicks, and the three others, including Sunday’s goal, have been from corner kicks.
Head coach Scott Atherley stressed the key to success this season for his young team would be to improve the overall mentality and believes the unfavorable set-piece errors can be attributed to the mindset of the team.
“It’s a critical component of the game that we constantly rehearse and discuss, and quite frankly, it comes from the mentality,” Atherley said. “It’s more of a mentality [issue] than personnel or formation.”
The Black Bears began their regular season play on Aug. 26 with a 1-0 home win against Charleston Southern University. The next scheduled game against Fairleigh Dickinson University on Aug. 27 was canceled, and last Friday the team dropped its second contest against Sacred Heart University, losing 4-3 in Fairfield, Conn.
The Black Bears’ latest contest, an away game at the College of Holy Cross, saw UMaine improve its record to 2-1-1 with a 1-0 victory over the Crusaders. Senior forward Courtney Harnais provided the lone goal — her first of the season.
At this point last season, Maine was in worse standing, sitting at 1-2-0 after three games. Early mistakes eventually became nonexistent. Play improved as the season continued, propelling the team to a run at the America East Championship, where they finished runner-up after losing the title game against defending champions Boston University.
When asked his thoughts for the remainder of the season, Atherley said, “First of all, it’s a long race. I mean, we just started.
“You use each game, and you extract a lesson in order to make yourself better,” he said. “We’re using early games to get a really good feel of what our strengths and weaknesses are, so by the time we get into our conference season, we want to be playing on all cylinders.”
One problem the Black Bears faced at the beginning of this season was trying to fill the gap left by captain and team leader Kelsey Wilson, who graduated last year. Wilson led the team in goals, points and shots last season and also finished third in the conference in both goals per game and points per game.
“[Wilson]’s certainly missed on the field,” Atherley said. “[She] might have been the best captain we’ve ever had — just a great leader. In a game like this, her presence really kind of sets the tone for the mentality part.”
When asked who will step up to fill Wilson’s role, Atherley said, “We’re waiting for somebody to step up and kind of have that presence for us.
“There are a lot of young players out there. It’s a young team … and sometimes the hardest experience to gain is the tough lessons. I’d rather have them happen now then when we play Binghamton, and again, at this level, you’ve got to have the right mentality.”
UMaine’s next contest is a home game this Sunday at noon against the University of Rhode Island.